I really can't say that Scott Stricklin hit a home run with the hiring of Rick Ray. That's not to say that the test of time won't bear out that it was a great hire, but as far as initial grades, it can't be an 'A'.
It can't be an 'A' because Rick Ray is not an known commodity. Stricklin is taking a chance on a coach. Not to harp on what South Carolina is doing, but they hired a known commodity in Frank Martin, they receive an 'A'. Now, they are paying for it at $2 million per year and State will pay Ray half that. But the Gamecocks know what they are getting. Considering both schools are in the SEC, you have to say Scott Stricklin did not go out and get the best guy.
I am not disappointed with Rick Ray, however. I am very pleased with what I heard today. Discipline, hard work, effort, physical play...those words are music to my ears. Stricklin may not have gotten an 'A' with this hire because Ray isn't a known commodity, but he gets a 'B' because he got a guy with the right attributes. A 'B' that can turn into an 'A' over time.
For several weeks prior to Stansbury's retirement I harped on how we just needed to make a change for the sake of change. Things had gotten stale around the program, and Stans just wasn't cutting it anymore. I still agree with my original stance.
I was not there, so I am reading between the lines in this paragraph. But it appeared to me and many other people that Stansbury was not recruiting character guys, but just guys with talent. It's ok to bring in a player or two with some of those issues, and you can work on them when they get to campus. Not only did Stans bring in too many of them, but I believe he wasn't trying hard enough to make them give effort, and work harder. I don't think he cared as much about the players on the team as he should have, and the players on the team didn't care much about him in return. That is a pretty bold statement to make, but from all the comments collected from various players over various weeks, it seems accurate to me - to a certain degree.
My point is this - State is now bringing in a coach who will change the culture. We are bringing in a guy who will shake things up and get us back to the kind of basketball program we can be proud of. I'm not really expecting Rick Ray to surpass the winning percentage of Rick Stansbury, but if he's able to win the same amount of games with a group of guys who give it all they have - I can be proud of my Bulldogs. I wasn't proud of them this year, or last year.
Many Mississippi State fans including myself wanted a change, and we got it. Rick Ray isn't the big name we may have been crossing our fingers for, but he will do. After all, Ray can't help it he's not the big name - we are giving him a chance to make himself into one though. And who knows, that might just happen.